What do you do when you're not writing?
Some of you may, or may not know this about me, but I'm a veterinary technician. I spend over 164 hours a month, every month, tending to the needs of other people's animals. Don't get me wrong, I love my job, and have been told I'm very good at it, but this job takes its toll. Every day I see people, and sometimes their pets at their worst.
Because of my job, I find writing a necessity. I've been in this field for ten years, and every passing year I feel the drain even more. I would probably look for a different line of work if I weren't so attached to my boss. We do a lot of work with local, and out of state rescues. It can be hard sometimes.
When I'm not writing or working, I try to spend time with my family or distract myself with books, and the newest movies. It's not my interest in all things Sci-Fi that drives me, but the need to escape, the older I get the more I realize this. I'm very much a solitary person, I have no children or a spouse, So, I spend a good amount of time with my younger sister and my nephew and nieces.
If I can't write, or spend time with the family, I target shoot or paint.
What do you all do in your spare/free time?
Right now, sitting above my desk, on my wall at eye level, resides a neon green sticky note. It's a textual remind that life, and my writing is not perfect. It reads: Perfectionism is an unattainable goal!
I've done this for two reasons. One, to make myself realize that all I can do with my writing is make it the best that I can. Thereby in the process making myself strain to make my writing as good as I can before setting off free in the world. And the second reason is to make myself actually share my work more.
In the past, I've been a word/work hoarder. Sharing as little as possible because it "wasn't ready yet." Or, because I was scared for whatever reason. I say enough is enough! No more fear, no more doubt, only the words and the sharing of them, and the honing of my craft. Does that mean I'm going to dribble forth onto the page and call life good? No. It just means that I'm going to try to stop obsessing as much, or worrying that something isn't good enough.
So that sticky will remain, a constant reminder for me and hopefully a goal for myself to one day not need it as a reminder.
Every once in a while, I get the opportunity to participate in something that helps me immeasurably. Last Saturday, I got to attend a meeting of the Panhandle Professional Writers (PPW for short). The PPW has been around in my area for ages and is one of the oldest writer's groups active in the US. Kinda of a neat feat in my opinion, but I digress.
PPW often sponsors seminars for writers, retreats, contests, and various other writer-ly endeavors. This Saturday was no exception. Bethany Claire came in to speak about indie authors, and what it takes to make a dream like ours a reality.
To say that I was inspired by the talk, and planning out my future goals as a writer, is a vast understatement. I left the lecture feeling like writing full time is something that I can do, and that I could ultimately make a career out of. I don't mean the whole J.K. Rowling kind of success, but making my writing something I can actually do as a career. That's the best feeling I've had writing related in a long, long, long time. Sometimes you just have to share that happy, I can do this feeling, ya know?
Sometimes we writers just need to kick self-doubt in the ass, and yell an exagerated huzzah! It's the little things that bring us all validation. For me it's not normally praise, because let's face it, I'm pretty stingy at sharing my work. I don't worry people won't like it. I worry it's not ready, not perfect enough, not the best I can make it. We all have those moments.
Last night, I participated in my rl writing group. Sadly, I only get to meet with them once a month due to my work schedule. This limits me as a writer. We're allowed to bring no more than five pages to each critique section. It's taken months for me to get anywhere with my novels. So yesterday, after I finished rough editing my latest short story, I decided to take the first five pages of it (it's only at max 20 pages). I also took a complete version just in case I ran out of copies.
One of the members of the group, an elderly veteran who we'll call Frank kept trying to get my attention. Now, the thing about Frank is that he is an extremely fast reader. I'm no slouch, but Frank puts me to shame. The only downside to Frank is that he never write's his critique down.
So, I went through my reading, and critiquing of the four other pieces we had last night, and when I finished Frank was still trying to wave me down. I leaned as close as I could (halfway across the table) and gave Frank my attention without hopefully disturbing the rest of the group. He asked if I had finished the story. I nodded and passed over the remaining fifteen pages.
Unfortunately, before Frank could finish, the rest of the group completed their critiques. So, we all beginning giving the oral section, going over three points we find that stand out most for each piece. The group leader turns to Frank after giving her comment and much to the group's chagrin, he's nose deep in reading! He hadn't heard a thing. He blushed, apologized, and gave his critique, and so went the next three pieces we critiqued. During the last critique on the last piece before mine, I happened to look over at Frank.
I watched him flip my piece back to rights with the biggest grin on his face I've seen in a good while. I've never seen Frank read anything from the group and have that kind of reaction. What's more, I've never seen someone read something of mine and have such a vivid reaction. It moved me in a way that's hard to put words to.
I'm not sharing this to brag, but because it did move me so much. For those of us who don't regularly get to attend groups or haven't had a situation like that, it's hard to fathom how people might react to what we write. For me, I had never considered it actually. I've always just set out to tell the best story I can.
So yes, that's my share for the day, and yes most of the critiques on the piece were very helpful, and gave me lots of warm writer fuzzies!
Since I started seriously trying to write, I say seriously because in 2011 I decided I wanted to try to better my writing, I've had many novel attempts through nano and the like. Of all the writing I've done, most of it has not been via short stories. I'm taking a step back from all the novel attempts and getting myself acquainted with the short story. I've worked for the last few days on a piece I'm calling BreWd. I have to say of everything I've tried to write the last few years, this has been the easiest.
My original idea for this piece came to me three or four nights ago, and since then I've written more, but more importantly consistently more than I ever have. So it makes me wonder what's different this time? What did I change about how I normally write. or think about my stories?
Well, for starters, no self-doubt. No is this story idea good enough to take and do something with. None of that will this work, only how can I make things worse for this character?
Then, writing. Nearly continuous writing. I kicked myself for even stopping long enough to take a lunch break from work yesterday. Yes I wrote the lion share of what I have so far at work yesterday, which is not something I normally would do. But it did tell me something important. I write better/more during the day when I'm not at home.
I also found a song that for some reason fits this piece. So I put my ear buds in, and have listened to the same freaking song for several days straight. I think at this point, I don't even hear the lyrics any more, just the melody. That's also a first for me.
I've also changed where I write. Even now as I type this out I'm not at home. I'm sitting in a coffee shop int he next town over drinking a strawberry smoothie. Why? Because it's not home. And so far since doing that, I've gotten another 1500 words out. Yay!
So what's the point of this blog post? Well, I guess it's in the title. Pay attention to your writing process. Some people call this a muse, what ever works for you. But what ever you do, pay attention to the parts of it that work for you. Pay attention, and feed those parts. Sometimes that can mean the difference between not writing for three months, and banging out a piece like your hell-bent to get something out of you.
It's a great feeling when that last part happens, a sort of validation in and of itself. So do it, then do it again and again. If you are anything like me (which you probably are not thank god) that's the only way you will ever get what you want out of trying to be a serious writer.
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